The life of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High may be called a Hidden Life, because the animating principle, the vital or operative element, is not so much in itself as in another. It is a life grafted into another life. It is the life of the soul, incorporated into the life of Christ; and in such a way, that, while it has a distinct vitality, it has so very much in the sense, in which the branch of a tree may be said to have a distinct vitality from the root.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Faith — Not Emotion

There is another class of persons, whose experience is something more than intellectual; but which, just so far as it exists independently of faith as its basis, cannot safely or justly be regarded, as a true religious experience. We refer to those, whose religious life is characterized chiefly or exclusively by strong emotions. These cases are in some respects more difficult to be rightly estimated than those which have just been mentioned. It is well known, that many persons find it difficult to form an idea of religion separate from feeling; and they are very apt to consider great feeling and great religion as very much the same thing. In many minds religion and feeling are almost identical. But it will be noticed in the proposition, which we have laid down, that we do not condemn feeling, that we do not exclude feeling as a part of religious experience, but only that we condemn and exclude from religious experience all that feeling, which exists independently of faith as its basis. 

I have somewhere seen the remark, and it seems to me that there is a foundation for it, although it is obviously liable to be misunderstood, that we are not saved by feeling, but by faith. A proposition, which implies, that the primary element, the foundation of salvation, so far as the human mind is concerned, is faith, without excluding feeling in its appropriate place, viz. as sometimes antecedent and preparatory, and more frequently as a subsequent and accessory state of mind. As a general rule, the order of sequence is, faith first, and feeling afterwards. Religious faith will not only give religious feeling on its appropriate occasions; but it will give the right form or modification of feeling; in other words, precisely that modification of feeling, which the occasion requires.

We should be sorry to have it understood, as implied in these remarks, that we object absolutely and in all respects to what may be denominated emotional religion, or rather to emotions as involved in and considered as a part of religion. Emotions, excited states of feeling, even of mere natural or animal feeling, may precede faith, and may be valuable in preparing the way for it; or they may be subsequent to it, and may oftentimes result from it. The emotions in their various kinds, both joyous and sorrowful, arise on many occasions very different from each other; and oftentimes have nothing to do with religion; and at their best estate may be regarded merely as the attendants and accessories of religion.

The true view, therefore, is, that emotional states, or mere temporary feelings of joy and sorrow in distinction from the permanent state of love, may or may not involve the fact of religion. The man, who has them, may possess religion, or he may be destitute of it. In forming a judgment, therefore, of a man’s religious character from his joys or his sorrows, however excited and raised they may be, (for it is to joys and sorrows that we have special reference when we speak of emotional states,) it is necessary to be very careful. But no man need be solicitous in respect to the reality and truth of his religion, whether his joys or his sorrows be more or less, who, having entirely renounced himself, has that faith in God, which works by love and purifies the heart.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 11.

No comments:

Post a Comment